Waves of migration in the Aegean: moving beyond decontextualized crisis-management and contextualizing overlapping experiences of displacement towards recognizing parameters of cultural accommodation
Paper short abstract:
The coding of single cases of migration as crisis leads to an oversight of the overlapping migratory experiences in societies accustomed to living with mobility throughout their history. A comparative analysis of multiple waves of Aegean migration in the last century may help remedy that tendency.
Paper long abstract:
Often presented as an emergency situation or a state of exception by the international community or mass media, migratory phenomena tend to be addressed as isolated individual occurrences with an expiration date. This may have caused existing scholarship to oversee the everlasting existence of overlapping waves of migration in different social settings and the lack of broader historical perspectives within which these can be put into comparative analysis. The paper is based on ongoing ethnographic and oral historical research in the Greek islands of Leros and Lesvos and the corresponding towns in the Turkish coastline. In addition to the imminent situation involving Syrian refugees, the case studies will include other episodes of migration in the Aegean that occured after turning points in the course of the last century: post-WWI, post-Catastrophe, post-WWII, post-civil war, post-junta, post-industrialization, post-Cold War, post-financial crisis, to name a few. As many of these took place within the lifetime of one or two generations, I argue that migration needs to be seen as an integral part of the living memory and everyday life in the Aegean. Through a comparative analysis of diverse experiences of displacement, I propose replacing the notion of 'crisis-management' with that of 'cultural accommodation' of migration -of how societies have at different times dealt with different waves of migration, and how these -when spatiotemporally contextualized- may help construct the basis for more effective strategies in response to migration.
De-exceptionalising displacement in times of crisis